(on-TRACT): French for “between the acts”, often a
musical interlude between acts of a theatrical production
3 times a year
from Bizet's Carmen
is French for "between the acts" (German:
Zwischenspiel, Italian: Intermezzo, Spanish: Intermedio). It can
mean a pause between two parts of a stage production, synonymous
to an intermission, but it more often indicates a piece of music
(interlude) performed between acts of a theatrical production. In
the case of stage musicals, the entr'acte serves as the overture
of Act Two (and sometimes Acts Three and Four, as in the case of
The Student Prince). In roadshow theatrical releases, films that
were meant to be shown with an intermission, there was frequently
a specially recorded entr'acte on the soundtrack between the
first and second half of the film.
entr'actes resulted from stage curtains being closed for set or
costume changes: to fill time as not to halt the dramatic action,
to make a transition from the mood of one act to the next, or to
prevent the public from becoming restless. In front of the closed
curtains, the action could be continued during these entr'actes,
albeit involving only players with no scenery other than the
curtain, and a minimum of props.
an interquel, an entr'acte can take the action from one part of a
large-scale drama to the next by completing the missing links. An
interquel, however, is a much later innovation. In contrast to an
entr'acte, an interquel utilizes the same kind of resources and
magnitude as the parts it joins.
traditional theatre, incidental music could also bridge the
'closed curtain' periods: Ballet, opera and drama each have a
rich tradition of such musical interludes. The etymology of the
German word, Verwandlungsmusik refers to its original function –
literally, "change music". Eventually, entr'actes (or
intermezzi) would develop into a separate genre of short
theatrical realisations (often with a plot completely independent
from the main piece), that could be produced with a minimum of
requisites during intermissions of other elaborate theatre
pieces. These later entr'actes were distinctly intended to break
the action or mood with something different, such as comedy or
dance. Such pieces also allowed the chief players of the main
piece to have a break. Eventually the idea of being an insert
into a greater whole became looser: interlude sometimes has no
other connotation than a "short play".
more or less elaborate and/or independent entr'actes or
intermezzi became famous in their own right, in some cases
eclipsing the theatre productions for which they were originally
serva padrona, a two-act opera buffa by Pergolesi, was intended
to break the seriousness of his opera seria Il prigioner superbo
(1733). Eventually the intermezzo got more attention than the
large-scale work to which it was added (see Querelle des
shows his mastery in the finale of the first act of Don Giovanni,
where he mixes the divertimento-like dancing (accompanied by a
small ensemble on the scene) with the actual singing. The
characters mingle, performing light dances, while they're
supposed to be chasing each other for murder and rape. The
diversion and the drama become a single multi-layered item.
comparable 'filmic' interlude was foreseen in the early 1930s by
Alban Berg for his opera Lulu, between the two scenes of the
central act. In this case Berg only composed the music and gave a
short schematic scenario for a film, that was not yet realised
when he died in 1935. The Lulu interlude film, in contrast to the
previous example, was intended to chain the action between the
first and second half of the opera. Because of the completely
symmetrical structure of this opera, the filmic interlude of Lulu
is, in a manner of speaking, the axis of the opera.
of the divertimento kind can be found in Leoš Janáček's
last, sombre opera From the House of the Dead (1928): releasing
the tension after Skuratov's disheartening tale at the centre of
the second act, two an "opera" and a "pantomime"
within the larger opera are executed consecutively by a cast of
prisoners, both presentations farcical variations on the Don Juan
theme, and mirroring the religious ceremony divertimento before
the Skuratov tale.
the first publicly performed furniture music composed by Erik
Satie was premiered as entr'acte music (1920 - the play for which
it was written fell into oblivion), with this variation that it
was intended as background music to the sounds the public would
usually produce at intermission, walking around and talking.
Allegedly, the public did not obey Satie's intention: they kept
silently in their places and listened, trained by a habit of
incidental music, much to the frustration of the avant-garde
musicians, who tried to save their idea by inciting the public to
get up, talk, and walk around.
of the film adaptations of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals
feature entr'actes during the intermission, which make use of
music from the production.
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